US Coalition Signals End to Iraq Combat, Focus Will Shift to Training

No US troops actually leaving Iraq

The US-led coalition in Iraq has announced the closure of its Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command in Baghdad. The office was closed Monday, and signals the end of major combat operations for the thousands of US-led grounds troops in Iraq.

The troops aren’t going anywhere, even if Iraq’s declaration of victory over ISIS in December means they don’t have anyone to fight. Rather, the focus is shifting to training up an Iraqi military that is in tatters after the ISIS war.

Pentagon officials have indicated that the training operation is essentially open-ended. The US, of course, trained the Iraqi military the last time, after destroying them in the 2003 invasion. That US-trained and armed Iraqi military was quickly routed by ISIS, however, leading to a new influx of US arms and advisers for the war.

This raises questions about whether the US and its allies can even create an effective Iraqi military. Given how many billions of dollars in US equipment were given to the last Iraqi military, looted by ISIS, then destroyed by US airstrikes, these new militaries can be an expensive proposition.

The presence of all of these Western trainers is also a potential complicating matter for Iraq. Many factions resent the presence of foreign troops, and the longer they stay, the more insurgencies are liable to rise to fight the Iraqi military they are rearming.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.